Mario Kart Live Home Circuit (Switch)

Did you know there was a new Mario Kart game this year?  Yeah it kind of flew under the radar and was also kind of hard to get.  So when I was a kid, sometimes for Christmas I’d get an RC car and really liked them.  You know another thing that I like?  Mario Kart!  In fact, the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES is still one of my top five favorite games of all time.  So what do you get when you combine the fun of driving real life RC cars with the wackiness of Mario Kart video games?  You get Mario Kart Live Home Circuit.  It’s an RC car of Mario or Luigi (I got the Luigi one because he’s way cooler than Mario).  On the car there is a camera, and you control the car with the Switch and view the action in first person with the camera as you play a Mario Kart game with augmented reality.  You can even design your own tracks!  It’s a really cool idea, but is it practical and really worth the 100 bucks?  Well you’ll just have to read on to find out!

But first, let’s take a look at some pictures.  Here’s a closer picture of the front of the box.

And here’s the back of the box.  It’s a good idea to save the box so you can put everything back in it when you’re done playing.  Also the instructions are on the side of the box, which I’m not a big fan of as I wish there were an instruction manual in the package.

Here’s the actual Luigi RC car.  It’s a pretty decent size, but not TOO huge.  You can hold it in your hand, but it’s not like it’ll fit in the palm of your hand, as it overlaps a little.  The car has rechargeable batteries, and you charge it up via an included USB cable you connect to the Switch.  Before you start the game, I recommend charging it first, because like most electronics, it doesn’t have a full charge when you take it out of the box.

The box also includes cardboard gates and arrow markers.  I guess they had to do something with all the extra cardboard from failed Labo sets.  Anyway, you set up the four gates to make your own tracks, and you can set the arrow markers anywhere you think people may need direction as to where to turn on the tracks you make.  The gates are pretty wide, enough to drive two RC cars through at the same time.  And they took up the whole entire space in my hallways, too.  The game uses augmented reality to make the gates look like different structures as you play, and AR also makes the arrow markers look like they’re lit up and moving so they really stand out.  Anyway, we’ll talk more on how the AR works in the actual game, but here’s some pictures of the gates.

There are pictures on the back of the gates, too.  Not sure why, but I took a picture of that as well so here you go.

So now let’s talk about the actual game you get to play with this.  There is a substantial game to play here, as it’s not just a tech demo, so that’s cool.  One disappointment is that there isn’t an actual physical game in the box.  You just get instructions to download it on the Nintendo eShop.  Heck, anyone can download the game as long as you do a search for ‘mklive,’ you just won’t get anywhere past the title screen unless you have the RC car!  I know it may not bother some people, but for me, for 100 bucks I would’ve expected this to come with a physical cartridge, too.

Initial setup seems pretty easy, I was able to figure it out anyway without too much instruction.  To synch the RC car to the Nintendo Switch, you have to point the camera on the car to a QR code on the Switch screen.  But after that, the two will automatically sync any time you play.  You also use the camera to take a picture of yourself for your driver’s license in the game.  There are single and multiplayer modes for two karts, but I can only tell you about the single player modes.  Sorry about that, but getting another kart would’ve cost another 100 bucks, and I’m not made of money!

After the setup, you can do an ‘explore mode’ where you just drive around, or design a track.  To make a track, Lakitu will throw paint on your wheels on screen and you must drive through all four gates and back to the first to make a circuit.  When done successfully, Bowser Jr. and the Koopa Kids will fly by in their Clown Cars and challenge you to races.  I was happy to see the Koopa Kids here as I’m a fan.  After that it pretty much play like a Mario Kart game.  You have 8 cups with three races for each, with different themes. You can race on the same track you create for each track in a cup, or make a new track every time.  There are 50cc, 100cc, and 150 cc difficulties.  You can also do time trials on the tracks you create.  When racing, boost arrows and mushrooms will make your car go faster, while bananas and shells will make you stop for a bit.

The themes of the tracks are pretty cool, and make great use of AR, changing what the gates look like and what obstacles you must watch out for.  Underwater tracks have Cheep Cheeps swimming around for you to avoid, snow tracks have Freezies sliding by and you’ll be frozen for a bit if you touch one.  Watch out for piranha plants in DK Jungle, Thwomps and lava in Bowser’s Castle, and yes there’s even a Rainbow Road!  My favorite is a track made to look like the classic Super Mario Bros. game, with pixelly castle gates, blocky Goombas to avoid and even the coins are pixelly!  Another track has Kamek the Magikoopa fly by and makes everything viewed on your screen in reverse!

Speaking of coins, you’ll want to collect as many as you can as you race because at the end, your collected coins are tallied up and if you fill a meter with them, you’ll unlock a goodie.  These include new outfits for Mario & Luigi, new kart chassis, and horn sounds.  You can also unlock new gate options for when you make your own tracks.  Like you can have gates hold power up boxes, boost arrows, obstacles, and more!  Other things you can unlock are themes and music tracks.

Aside from the great use of AR, I was also really impressed with the controls.  But then, they’d BETTER work well since this thing costs 100 bucks!  This is definitely the best controlling RC car I’ve ever played with.  But I also had a problem with how the game affects your controls.  This is still an RC car that I don’t want to crash and break up, but sometimes there are things in the game that affect your controls very negatively.  For instance, there are windy tracks that can make you veer left or right, and if you get a Chain Chomp, it’ll jerk you forward really quickly.  Running into gates can also mess up your track, and even though it’s not the game’s fault, running into something makes you go to a complete stop.  One other control quirk is that you still control the car after you finish a race, and if you’re not careful, you might bump into something.  It might not sound like an issue, but people who have played Mario Kart know you stop controlling the car after you cross the finish line, so it feels weird here.  Just get in the habit of doing a victory lap after a race.

The other problem with the game is just the practicality of it all.  It’s recommended for use on clean, hard floors.  I used it on tile since my house is mostly carpet, but we have enough tile in the kitchen to make a small track.  It was a little bumpy, but still worked great.  I didn’t try it on carpet, simply because when I had RC cars in the past, they would get fuzz in the wheels when you raced on carpet, and I didn’t want that to happen here.  I took the RC car and game to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving and tried it out there since they have ALL hardwood floors, but even then I wasn’t able to make too complicated of a track because of furniture and stuff.  So you really need a LOT of space and the right kinds of floors in your house for this to work best.

One final minor problem is that I think they should’ve made an RC car featuring Princess Peach as well as Mario & Luigi.  Some may say it sounds sexist, but many girls like to play as girl characters in games, and there’s nothing wrong with that!  Also, the AR in the game is so well done I wanted to take screen caps to show off here.  But the game won’t let you do that.  It’s a shame, but I can understand why they don’t let you do that for privacy reasons.  Still, the screenshots you mostly see online just don’t do it justice.  But I’ll post one anyway!  So is Mario Kart Live Home Circuit worth 100 bucks?  I’d say probably not, but I bought it anyway because I really wanted it!  So nyeah!

Kid Factor:

Mario Kart Live Home Circuit is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Cartoon Violence.  If you get hit by a silly weapon like a banana peel or turtle shell, your character will just wiggle around for a bit and say “whoa-whoa-whoa” but that’s about as violent as it gets.  Reading skill is helpful for the text.  I’d say this game could be almost considered educational as well, since it encourages creative play.

But there’s more than just the ESRB rating to determine if this game is right for your kids.  First there is the expense.  One set cost 100 bucks, and if you get two so you can play together, that’s 200 bucks!  Plus you have to have a Nintendo Switch system to play it on.  Your house must be the right fit as well.  You need to have enough hard floor or tile to roll around, as well as enough space to make tracks.  And I’d make sure the floors are clean as well.  Might be a good trick to encourage your kids to clean their rooms and/or mop the floors!  Also, your kids need to be mature enough to take care of their toys.  You don’t want the RC car tumbling down the stairs, or crashing into something too hard, and I definitely wouldn’t take it outside in the dirt and mud!  Making sure your kids are good at picking up their toys is important, too, as you don’t want to trip over those cardboard gates!

4 Responses to “Mario Kart Live Home Circuit (Switch)”

  1. Looks fun!!! A little worried that the kids and I would only play this for an hour then never touch it again. If they make a Wario one I’m soooo in, though! Heh

  2. This is such a neat idea, but we just don’t have the floor space for something like this. Maybe if they made a bigger set that worked outdoors….

  3. Nintendo has some great ideas, but boy are some impractical!

  4. I’m using this as one of my sources for an essay, this was really informative, thanks.

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